Saturday, November 26, 2016

RCMP looks overseas to stop flow of drugs. But how reliable is China as a partner in the fight against fentanyl?


RCMP looks overseas to stop flow of drugs. But China isn't reliable as a partner in the fight against fentanyl?


Mounties say they are forging new partnerships with Chinese authorities to try to stem the flow of fentanyl to Canada.
But China’s reliability as a partner in the fight against the deadly opioid is far from certain.
Just last month, a senior RCMP official told a parliamentary committee that the two countries did not see eye to eye when it comes to the fentanyl threat and that there was a “disparity between what Canada and China consider a public health crisis.”
Of the 116 items China added to its list of controlled substances in October 2015, some were variants of fentanyl, “but the drugs that made it to Canada are not controlled in China,” Assistant Commissioner Todd Shean told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health.
“Fentanyl abuse has not been identified in China,” he continued. “The Chinese government’s focus is on other synthetic drugs of abuse like methamphetamine and ketamine.”
Sgt. Luc Chicoine, the RCMP’s national drug program coordinator, confirmed to the National Post Thursday night that unlike Canada, which lists fentanyl and all its derivatives on its list of controlled substances, China’s list of controlled substances is very piecemeal.
Canada is trying to add more illicit substances to its list next year, he said, noting that the RCMP has only two liaison officers based in Beijing.
But there’s another hurdle: the sheer size and population of China often makes it difficult to track down producers even when investigators have suspects’ names and addresses.
Still, Chicoine said, even though China doesn’t have a problem internally with fentanyl abuse — their addiction crisis is centred on amphetamine–type stimulants, not opioids — “they’re still aware of the problem internationally,” he said.
China "may move forward and step away from being always the one that everybody’s pointing the finger at, now that is being singled out” Chicoine said.
Image result for RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson
Image result for Chen Zhimin, China’s vice-minister for public security
According to this week’s announcement, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson and Chen Zhimin, China’s vice-minister for public security, met in Ottawa and agreed to work together to disrupt the supply of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two governments.
Discussions to formalize joint police investigations will happen next week.
A request for comment from the Chinese embassy in Ottawa was not  returned.
Growing concerns over the spate of overdoses related to opioids, such as fentanyl, sparked a national summit in Ottawa this month among public health experts. In B.C. alone, fentanyl was detected in 332 overdose deaths from January to September, a 196 per cent increase from the same period last year, the coroner’s service reported.
Just this week, Vancouver police announced that a fentanyl variant, carfentanil, which is said to be 100 times more potent than fentanyl and commonly used to tranquilize elephants, had made its way onto Vancouver’s streets.
An Associated Press investigation earlier this year identified 12 Chinese online vendors willing to export carfentanil, no questions asked, to several countries, including Canada, for as little as $2,750 a kilogram. Carfentanil is not on China’s list of controlled substances.
The AP report noted that while China already controls fentanyl and 18 related compounds, “despite periodic crackdowns, people willing to skirt the law are easy to find in China’s vast, freewheeling, state controlled, chemicals industry.”
There is a large chemical industry involved in illicit drug production south of the port city of Shanghai, authorities say. Canadian dealers typically purchase their orders on the Internet over the “dark Web.” Fentanyl is usually imported in powdered form, then mixed in Canada and pressed into tablet form.
Illicit fentanyl is being mixed with other drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.
Shipments of fentanyl are coming into Canada disguised or labelled in a variety of ways, such as printer ink, toys and DVDs, Shean said in his testimony last month.
B.C. ports are the “main distribution points” for fentanyl tablets, Shean said. “This may be due to its geographical situation in relation to the main producer of fentanyl in the world, China.”